The Things I Thought I Wanted: a diary with a lock and key . . . and the thing about secrets

diary-1449287_960_720Oh, how I wanted a diary when I was a girl.  You know the kind . . . a beautiful girly girl’s diary with a lock and key.  And I was simply ecstatic the Christmas when I was ten years old and I received one.  Mine had a navy blue cover with gold embossing and “1 Year Diary” gold-stamped into the cover.  I simply loved it!  I can still remember the sound that the gilt-edged pages made when I opened it for the first time . . . It felt like that crinkly sound was opening its pristine, glued-together pages to the secrets I was about to share with it.

Well, that’s the thing about secrets.  No matter how much we try to preserve them or hide them from the prying eyes and inquiring minds that intersect our life, they are [sometimes] doomed to be discovered . . . paraded . . . maybe even disrespected.  We feel violated when our secrets have been made public without our permission.

It takes a lot of risk and guts to commit a secret to the page . . . a lesson that I was quick to learn at this young age.  My hopes of finding my true self via those gilt-edged pages were temporarily dashed when my big sister read my diary entries aloud — pages that detailed my first big crush [Dean W.], in front of said crush, who was my big brother’s best buddy.

maple-leaf-638022_960_720I learned a lot that day about secrets and sisters and writing and locks and keys.  I learned that just because something has a lock on it, doesn’t mean that it can’t be jimmied open.  I learned that secrets can be made un-secret when they fall into the wrong hands.  That, although it can be risky, it’s okay to be honest with my thoughts.  That what someone else chooses to do doesn’t define who I am.  That although I might feel a wee bit discouraged, I am going to keep writing.

It took some time to view things from my sister’s perspective.  I learned that people do things that they don’t really intend to be hurtful in long-lasting ways.  That what might seem funny at the time, never really was in the first place. And that sisters somehow stick together, even when they do things that aren’t very nice.

french-1040839_960_720I am happy to have survived the awkwardness, and — now all the stronger — I have maintained my love and discipline of writing.   And in the ways of true forgiveness, I have since pardoned my diary-reading, secret-disclosing sister.  We are still the best of friends.

But you know how writing is.  It liberates us, even when life sort of sucks.  Writing asks us to pay attention to the details, even when it hurts.  Little does this sister know that she is the muse for an extremely unattractive, glowering villainess who gets her payback comeuppance in one of my current short stories.

But this is the way of writing.  You can change what is now by writing it into a different room or even onto a different planet.  Does reality change?  I don’t know how to answer this.  I only know how to live it.  And write it.  And tell my sister that I love her dearly, because I do.  And keep my journal hidden when she comes to visit.

Advertisements

Your choice. Choose you.

door. lock. unlock your dreams

theunseenwordsproject.com

Greetings, lovelies.  Today is a great day to Choose You.  

  1. Grab that key.
  2. If you can’t find the key, teach yourself how to pick a lock.
  3. Open the lock and swing the doors wide open.  You might be surprised to discover that you have actually, all this time, been the one who has been locked inside — not the other way around, with all this time thinking that your dreams are the ones that have been locked up and inaccessible.
  4. Step outside into the world of possibility and let your hair flow in the fresh breeze.
  5. Open your arms and embrace the many opportunities that are all around you.
  6. There are so many that are designed especially for you.  For you.  Believe.
  7. Step forth and choose.  You only have to choose one to make a difference in today.  Like choosing a puppy from a darling litter of adorable choices, pick the one that picks you.
  8. Nurture your choice.  Let it know that it is loved.  Feed it, water it, walk it, clean up after it.
  9. Groom your choice.  Brush it, bathe it, pick the sticks and burrs that get stuck when it is out running around and exploring.
  10. An opportunity is a choice.  You are worth the time and care that making the choice to choose you requires to nurture it.  Love who you are.  Believe in yourself.  Choose well.

Are you an InstaGoogler?

passionately curious. einsteinAgain . . . Albert Einstein leads us by the hand and takes us to what it is about our own selves that makes us who we are.  What a remarkable person he was.

Question: What are you passionately curious about?  What is One Thing you enjoy learning about?  What is One Thing that you would like to spend some time exploring?  

What is the first answer that pops into your head?  Got it?  Next, download a [FREE] journal worksheet that will take you just a little bit further into and  farther down your Road of Curiosity.

I sometimes think that we have simply been so inundated with so much information.  

I love having Google at my very fingertips . . . but still.  Anything you want to know is just a Siri-command away.  Who wrote Stand by Me?  What is the Mariners – Angels score?  What are the health benefits of turmeric?

Are you an InstaGoogler?

Are you one of those Instant Googlers that reaches for your phone when you or someone else wonders something aloud?  Does having Instant Information at our fingertips or voice command rob us of deepening our curiosity?  Do we learn an answer and then dismiss it and maybe even forget it until the next Wonder enters the room?

I wonder.  Does having this wonderful advantage of instant information simply stuff us full of trivia and rob us of our passionate curiosity at the same time?  There is a difference — a chasm — between Knowing and Wanting to Know . . . a gap between Knowing An Answer and Wanting to Know more about stuff.  At least this is what occurs to me.  It seems that I know more and more about less and less than I used to . . . which is all good.  But still.  Don’t we truly want to know more, possess more knowledge, feel that depth-scraping satisfaction that only deep learning  provides?

Make curiosity a rewarding habit.  Explore your Curiosity with this free journaling download.

To download a free (and empowering) journaling worksheet that will help you explore and enjoy your Passionately Curious Thing, fill out the contact information below.  [This will not add you to any mailing list for future journal worksheets — unless you specify that you would like to receive them.]  This journal exercise is a journey into your curiosity, your passions, and your area of interest that defines who you are.  It’s good stuff!

Life is simply so interesting and there is soooooo much to be passionately curious about.  Live life large and expand your curiosity’s range of motion.  Think like Albert and less like a Googler.  Be you.  Be interesting.  Expand who you are.

Life, Love, & Happiness . . . all is a Chancey Poker Hand

deck of cardsI knew an old timer who thought of life as a poker game.  His theory was that we are dealt only so many cards in life . . . that we have to discard the old for the new if we hope to improve the hand that we are currently holding.  He believed that life was all just a gambling game of chance, predicated on our willingness to release something for something else.  In other words: if you don’t like the cards you are holding, you might just as well go ahead and discard.  The new cards that are dealt back to you might make for a better hand.  And if that isn’t the case?  Well, you discard again until you like the hand you are holding.  I should probably add that this older fellow led a very uncomplicated life.

Whether you look at life as Poker, Bridge, Backgammon, or Go Fish . . . there is some truth to what this old guy had to say.  And before I break out in my karaoke version of Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,”  I just want to say that there is certainly an element of chance in every single moment of my life.  Like a deck of cards sitting before me on the poker table, I can actually feel the opportunities that are stacked up in front of me, beckoning and simply asking me to release my tight grip on my current reality and be brave enough to discard.

Paul_Cézanne,_1892-95,_Les_joueurs_de_carte_(The_Card_Players),_60_x_73_cm,_oil_on_canvas,_Courtauld_Institute_of_Art,_LondonThat’s the best part of taking a chance.  Any chance.  There is that little thrill that courses through our humanness right in that very second before we know that we have been dealt a bad hand or a good hand.  Research has shown that this “thrill” is actually what compulsive gamblers are addicted to.  It isn’t Winning that they are hooked on, otherwise they would walk away from the table when they have a nice high stack of chips sitting in front of them . . . it’s actually that feeling of not knowing whether they have won or lost that brings them back to the table.

I guess I have to give it to Kenny Rogers . . . or to whomever wrote the lyrics to that song about knowing when to hold them or when to fold them.   It is true.  You do have to know when to walk away.  Know when to run.  There is that expression that nature abhors a vacuum.  Experience tells us that this is true: when we create a hole or a gap in our lives, it is likely to fill up with something or someone else — perhaps with alarming similarities, but different nonetheless.

There are those pivotal times in life when we concede to discarding.  And receiving. When we [finally!] acknowledge that it’s okay to take a chance.  And if there are rules that define winning the game, it’s probably time to have a chat with Mr. Hoyle about writing in some exceptions.

All that life really requires of us is that we go forth and live it.  There is not a lot of thinking or haggling involved with it.  Or is there?   [Shifting back into OverThink drive now . . .]  But it sometimes seems that if  you overthink or strategize life, you are doomed to passivity.  Passivity, like counting cards, has its place but it has no depth, no growth, no change, no underbelly.  It just exists with predictable outcomes.

Jokers and trump cards.  The King of Hearts and the Queen of Spades.  Existence and living.  Risk and chance.  I don’t know exactly how this all spells out into my strategy for poker playing — not being very artful at this game — but I am thinking it’s time to look at what I have chosen to hold and maybe do a little discard here or there.  Change is bound to be good because, if we believe Kenny, every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser.  [My apologies if this song gets stuck in your head for the rest of the day! :)]

 

 

Make an Heirloom Moment

heirloom hearts. take time

theunseenwordsproject.com

What is one thing that you take for granted that someone does for you?

There are so many little things that we take for granted, don’t you agree?  Little things and big things.

What are a few of the little things and the big things that friends, family, colleagues, your pets, even some strangers have done and continue to do for you?  I encourage you to reciprocate and to let them know that you do appreciate their time, thoughtfulness, and effort.  It will be so very much appreciated!

If you would like a step-by-step workshop on writing the perfect note of appreciation, provide your contact information below, and I will send you a PDF from this workshop.

You know that your note is a smashing success when your special person feels like an even better person after reading it!  Great job!

 

 

Stumping Miz Grammar

We learn best

theunseenwordsproject.com

It was once my privilege – and challenge – to take over teaching mid-year in a 7th/8th grade grammar class at a very small public school.  This school was the classic one-room schoolhouse, located in a remote, road-less area in the North Cascades of Washington state.  The children there had grown up navigating the trails of the high country, floating the rivers, jumping in the glacial-fed lake, and tearing up and down the dirt roads on their bicycles.  It was a land of no cell phones, video games, and Facebook – a place of isolated enchantment that could not and would not be fully appreciated until these students grew older, moved away, and worked in cities that involved the many technological trappings now associated with modern living.

You can well imagine that the students did not feel a passion for this grammar class – my predecessor having resorted to dry lectures and long homework assignments, and it was my job to take over and to inspire some interest for the subject.  Being a grammar nerd myself, I wasn’t prepared for the level of apathy that the students expressed.  I remember telling the students on the first day of class that I loved the subject of grammar so much, I took grammar workbooks with me on vacation so I could relax and just enjoy the fun of language.  They thought I was weird, maybe a little insane . . . but that was all good because I was committed to understanding why they weren’t more interested in the foundational components of their native language.  After all, this is grammar that we are talking about?!

We started the class by getting to know each other a little better.  Every Monday, we would each recount stories from the weekend while I grabbed key words from their telling and then write these words into the eight parts of speech grid that I had graphed out on the board.  Then we would play The Synonym Game and erase the word on the board with a different word that might convey the story’s meaning a little more vividly.  They began to see how word choice mattered – how you could use the adjective great and maybe use the word fabulous or resplendent instead.  It was a small step but it made sense to take what they knew – their experiences – and translate them into a Grammar Stew on the board that they shared.  I knew that we were growing stalwart grammar-ites when one student used the adjective ebullient in his re-telling of how happy he was that his grandma had come to visit.  It made me feel positively ebullient!

For homework, each student was to bring one question each day to stump me – Miz Grammar.  I wanted to demonstrate how remarkable grammar actually is . . . that no one has all of the answers – not even Miz Grammar!  I wanted them to see how language is an evolving work in progress.  Just ask the Apostrophe Protection Society!  We can’t stop language!  The biggest advantage in Stumping Miz Grammar was that this was a rural school and there was zero access to Google or the Internet.  This meant that the students had to use their textbooks to find the questions and answers to stump me.

I don’t know how I managed to stay ahead of the students, but it quickly became apparent that it was going to be tricky to stay ahead of their questions.  The students would see me at the post office on mail day and ask, “Miz Grammar, what is a gerund?”  “What is a dangling preposition?”  “What is an antecedent?”  They were becoming a team of grammar experts without the students even knowing it.  And how could they know if I knew the answer if they hadn’t done the proper research and found the correct answer themselves?

I kept all of their questions and, at the end of the school year, the students compiled the questions into categories and organized a community-wide, grammar-themed game show.  Parents were the contestants and prizes were donated.  In an effort to alleviate grammar anxiety – which was prevalent, I might add, what with their children being grammar experts by this time – the parents wore costumes and adopted various personalities as game show contestants.  It was a bonding experience for the community, and it was a source of great fun and pride for the students as they led the community down the road of grammar enlightenment.

It is funny how one little crazy idea can grow into something larger than imagined possible.  One of the students went on to become a published poet.  Another student majored in journalism and was the acting editor of a Chicago university’s newspaper during his tenure as a student.  Another student went on to become a freelance writer.  The pleasure that these students took in dissecting language into its most primitive parts gave me great joy as a teacher and as a grammar lover!

Learning objectives are important.  They are the brass ring on the carousel, the t-shirt at the end of the marathon, the cake from the cake walk.  But what I had intuited as necessary at the beginning of this grammar journey proved to be true: you have to build a learning community before learning can happen.  These amazing students created a Culture of Grammar.  They built a team first and then, without even realizing it in the process, mastered the actual objectives of the course . . . and had fun while doing so.

Am I proud of these students?  Yes!  It is our goal as educators to infuse a love of learning while learning.  Like metacognition, or meta-anything for that matter, it’s all about being within the moment while being in the moment.  These students taught me far more about life than I ever taught them about grammar.  They taught me about community and to trust myself when in the midst of a challenging and seemingly dismal situation.

It’s good to know that we don’t know everything.  We are refreshed and invigorated when we enter the unknown territories in which we find ourselves and embrace the evolution of learning and growing.  Just ask Miz Grammar!  She knows!

13 Steps to take when you don’t know something that you’re expected to know:

  1. Just say it.  Admit that you don’t know.
  2. Research. Find your answer.  
  3. Look for new sources and ask experts.
  4. Lean on your community.  Like a 3-legged stool, every “leg” in the community is essential.
  5. Learn more than you started out wanting to know.
  6. Share your knowledge.
  7. Share your passion for knowledge.
  8. Offer your knowledge and experience to someone else.  
  9. Be a mentor.
  10. Laugh a lot.  Laughter doeth good like a medicine — especially when you are feeling stressed about a deadline or an expectation.
  11. Don’t give up.  There is likely an answer available.
  12. If you can’t find the answer, create one based on all of the above.
  13. Become The Expert!   
become the expert

theunseenwordsproject.com

Start with a Simple Idea

IMG_1611. a simple ideaStart with a Simple Idea.  

It’s as simple as that.  Or is it?  We hear stories about people who are fulfilled and successful, motivated and inspired.  What many of these people have in common is that they started their Journey of Success with a simple idea that ultimately sparked growth in their personal lives while contributing to the world around them.

I had some crazy dream about Skylab, America’s first space station, last night — how I was trying to walk on one of its pinwheel arms while maintaining my balance in a gravity-free environment — not an easy task even within the fuzzy confines of a dream.  All of which got me thinking, mid-dream, about what a wonder the whole contraption of Skylab is.  Having experienced its interstellar wonder in my dream, I woke up thinking about how much research and groundwork and hope and intention and vision and forward thinking went into creating it.

Skylab didn’t just happen.  It started with a simple idea and it grew.  Maybe someone scribbled his or her original idea of it on the back of a bar napkin.  Maybe it was the result of some astrophysicists having breakfast together at a conference.  Maybe some scientist woke up with a detailed dream of it.  I don’t know Skylab’s true genesis, but someone had to take it and move it beyond a doodle or an entry in a lab notebook.

In a TED talk (click on the link below), Tony Robbins tells the story of his family receiving an unexpected and generous Thanksgiving Day kindness when he was younger.  As a teenager, Robbins wanted to pay this stranger’s kindness forward, so he anonymously provided a different family with a Thanksgiving dinner.  This generous and simple idea grew into the creation of an organization that now feeds millions of people.

I love stories like this.  Still, as inspiring as they are, they can also feel to be a bit overwhelming.  The obvious questions enter into my thoughts: How did Tony Robbins grow the organization from this one simple gesture?  How did he organize enough people to join him in his vision?  Where did he get the capital to grow the organization into such a large one?  Sure, the amazing and energetic and dynamic Tony Robbins could pull this off  . . . but could I?

Believe-in-yourself-and-believe-in-love.-Love-something.Details, details, details.  I so often get lost in the details.  If I were to look back on my life and pushpin myself onto any given past moment, would I have imagined all of the dynamics of Today?  Parts of Today?  Maybe parts, yes. But all of the amazing-ness that I now experience?  No.  I don’t think I could have foreseen a tiny glimpse of the bigger picture.  I had to take one simple step.  And believe.  And know.  And feed the vision.toaster oven

Skylab was originally launched unmanned but there were eventually several different crews delivered to the station.  On the latter missions, there was even an additional spacecraft orbiting to rescue the crew should they encounter any emergencies.  Imagine these baby steps.  First, unmanned.  Next, manned missions.  Ultimately, backup and support.

Albert-Einstein-Quote-Happy-Life

For a free download (in workbook format) of today’s journal prompt “Start with a Simple Idea,” provide your email address, and I will send you your inspiring journal exercise for you to print out and to start journaling.  Time to make a differrence! 

And to conclude on an uplifting note . . . This is such an inspiring TED talk: Why We Do What We Do.  If you have 21:45 today to take the time to just relax and to open your mind to possibilities, this is a great TED talk.  In fact . . . watch it before you begin journaling.  The ideas that Tony Robbins shares will expand your thinking and your creativity and your perceptions of what is possible.